Friday, 21 August 2015

The letter The Guardian didn't print

A week ago, when I was away on a much-needed break with my family, the media, led by The Sun, was full of the case of Mr Bob Cole, a councillor from North Wales, who was due to commit suicide on the Friday afternoon in the "Dignitas" self-styled clinic in Zurich. It was clearly a media-event  pre-orchestrated by the pro-euthanasia lobby in this country. ITV had contacted me for an interview on the Thursday, but I wasn't then well enough to oblige. So I did the next best thing I could and sent a letter to The Guardian newspaper, before we left on holiday.

This was what I wrote:


I am sad to learn that The Sun has lent its megaphone in support of what appears to be the latest salvo in Dignity in Dying’s campaign to legalise assisted suicide.  No one can fail to be moved by Mr Cole’s suffering nor that of his late wife.  However the campaign threatens to open a Pandora’s box of unintended and dangerous consequences for those of us who suffer from chronic, terminal or disabling conditions – and indeed ultimately for our whole society.

Mr Cole is quoted as having “no wish to die in pain without any dignity”.  Neither do I.  I have a very slow form of MND, and although I don’t relish the prospect of dying I have confidence that my dignity will not be sacrificed and my symptoms will be well managed, thanks to advanced palliative care pioneered by the hospice movement.  Ironically, in our sophisticated culture, the populist campaign is based on an immature fear of the process of dying.  Rarely is that process easy, and as our population ages so the difficulties increase.  However short-circuiting the process, which is what Dignitas and assisted suicide offer, merely adds to fear and militates against acceptance of the inevitable, and good dying.  Deliberately ending life, also known as killing, is no way to go.  Expanding and investing in palliative care, which is real compassion, is the better way.  

The vast majority of disabled and vulnerable people are protected by the law as it stands, and fear any change.  To pass a law which admits that some lives are less valuable or worthy of protection, as has happened wherever euthanasia or assisted suicide have been made legal, is a thoroughly dangerous precedent.  I trust MPs resist the loud siren-call of press magnates and listen to the voice of informed reason.  Keep us safe.

Yours etc

Sadly, The Guardian, whilst making quite a thing of the event, chose not to print my response the next day. I am sorry because I think that opinion formers such as journalists and law makers such as MPs need to be made aware that euthanasia is not a good universally acknowledged - anything but.


  1. Michael, I loved this.
    Have you seen the old Woody Allen movie, SLEEPER, where a health food shop owner checks himself in to a hospital for an outpatient colonoscopy, and out of chronic anxiety, lets his wife do the paperwork, and she checks the boxes that he has an incurable mortal condition, and they have elected experimental cryogenic freezing, to keep him until Science has a Cure for his condition? Of course he is just fine, and awakes a thousand years later . . .. Thanks for your wisdom and humor.. Bill Guthrie, your friend from New Zealand

  2. I'd not seen Sleeper, Bill, but have started watching on YouTube - not a good copy. However, I'm enjoying it. Thank you - and also for the audio-books, which are on my reading/listening list. Best wishes. Michael